RICHMOND, Va. — The White House's campaign to mobilize public support around its sweeping gun-control proposals began in earnest here Friday, with Vice President Biden saying, "We have an obligation to act — not wait."
Biden focused in particular on the administration's proposal to require universal background checks for all gun buyers, without mentioning additional plans to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
Administration officials said the the omission was not meant to imply a preference for one proposal over another, adding that background checks were particularly relevant for Virginia because of reforms that have been enacted there.
Biden, accompanied by several Cabinet secretaries as well as Sen. Timothy Kaine, D-Va. and Rep. Robert Scott, D-Va., met privately at Virginia Commonwealth University for more than two hours with officials who led the response to a 2007 mass shooting at another college, Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.
The discussion focused almost exclusively on background checks — seen as the most likely of President Obama's four major legislative proposals to garner bipartisan support — as well as ways to strengthen mental health programs, according to two attendees, who requested anonymity to speak candidly about the private meeting. One of those in attendance said proposed bans on assault weapons or high-capacity ammunition magazines came up briefly, while another said the subject did not come up at all.
In his remarks to reporters following the closed-door session, Biden said universal background checks would not infringe upon a law-abiding citizen's ability to buy a gun, but would merely help prevent criminals and other potentially dangerous people from obtaining weapons.
"There's certain things we know with certainty will diminish the prospects of what happened in Virginia Tech or what happened in any of these other mass shootings, including Newtown," Biden said.